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The Forgotten American Volunteer Group

The Forgotten American Volunteer Group Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review February 2022 Title The Forgotten American Volunteer Group
Author Dan Hagedorn Publisher Key Publishing
Published 2022 ISBN 9781913870027
Format 96 pages, softcover MSRP (USD) $24.95


Start with 1930s Latin American border fighting. Add a heaping dose of warplanes. Stir in mercenary aircrew. And spice with German-American friction.

All years before WWII.

That’s the recipe for The Forgotten American Volunteer Group: US Volunteers in the Colombia–Peru War, 1932 from Key Publishing – available in North America from Casemate.

Dan Hagedorn tells the whole terrific tale in just 96 picture-packed pages across nine spellbinding sections.

  • Introduction
  • The [Colombian] Aviación Militar at the Dawn of the 1930s
  • The Curtiss-Wright Connection
  • Colombia Attacks
  • Curtiss-Wright Arrives in Force, Just as the Dust Settles
  • El Misión de Aviación Norteamericana
  • Flying in Colombia
  • A Few Words About the Opposition
  • Opening Moves and the Combat Period

Simple economics “during the depths of the Depression” – and symbiosis between Curtiss and the broader aviation field – fueled American participation.

“Thus, from late 1933, through the ‘hangar grapevine’ in the United States,” the author observes, “where any hint of a job opportunity in the [aviation] field was eagerly seized upon … word slowly spread that ‘Colombia was hiring,’ not only pilots, but mechanics familiar with Curtiss aircraft as well – and that she was willing to pay rather handsomely.”

Ancillary events proved almost perfectly timed.

Hagedorn notes that the “nearly concurrent cancellation of all existing air mail contracts in the U.S. in February 1934”, as well as “increasingly stringent” USAAC “budgetary restraints”, prompted “more than 25 U.S. nationals to answer Colombia’s call”.

That came with at US$500 a month for pilots, plus “a bonus for each Peruvian machine brought down” – and “$200 to $250 per month, plus unidentified “‘expenses’” for mechanics.

“[P]rincely sums during the Depression,” Hagedorn adds with evident understatement.

This is their saga – seven years before a more famous American Volunteer Group served China.

Dozens of period photos – many rare and previously unpublished – season the survey. Extended, explanatory captions further augment the account. One color aircraft profile and a map also illustrate the effort. And annotations conclude contents.

Few have so illumined Latin American Aviation history for English-speaking readers as Dan Hagedorn has. And this terrific little tome proves it.

More, please. Many more.


With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.